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10/29/2009 Jumping into Social Media? Time to answer these 3 questions.

Every business and organization now feels the pressure to have a social media presence. If it's not someone in the marketing department (easy to ignore), it's a C-Type who's been to a conference or has read articles and has made this a "priority."

There are a lot of "We need help setting up our Facebook page" requests floating around. While I love the fact that more marketing departments want to engage in dialogue marketing, I find that many of them focus on the wrong question. They ask "How?" and "Where?"

What they need to ask is: Why? Who? What?

Why will participating in social media help your business? Are you simply looking to increase sales or to get a better idea of what people say about you?  Are you looking at social media as a way to build stronger connections with current customers or for finding new prospects? The answer to Why will help you build a strategy to guide everything you do. Or you may find that what you want to do doesn't make any sense on social media. You can avoid wasting precious time on something that will most likely not work.

Who do you want to connect with? Are they current customers or new ones? Are they teens or are they retired? Do they even use social media and how? Big questions, to be sure, but thankfully there are tools like those from Forrester's Groundswell. Their Social Technology Profile Tool helps you understand whether the people you want to connect with are those that simply like consuming content or actually enjoy creating it. Knowing this will help you hone in on the tactical directions and channels your social media needs to focus on.

What will you measure to define success? The bean counters are giving social media the hairy eyeball since their not convinced of ROI. You should choose KPIs instead (key performance indicators). You can choose a number of items to measure, everything from activity on your Facebook page, to Twitter ReTweets, to number of times mentioned on blogs, to visits or purchases on your Web site. It's important to choose something. There are lots of tools and services to help you monitor activity. For example, here's one interesting list of Twitter analytics tools you can use to measure activity.

If you can answer Why, Who and What, you can fill in those other important question like How, Where and When. You'll have a social media strategy you can explain to your team and your bosses. Hopefully, you'll have a roadmap for social media success.

Because without a good roadmap, you could be going in circles for a long, long time.


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